Equal Employment Opportunity Laws

A short overview of federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.


Civil Rights Act

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits public and private employers from discriminating in employment against individuals because of race, color, national origin, religion or sex. The law prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also neutral job policies that disproportionately exclude minorities and that are not job related. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.


Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA's protections apply to both employees and job applicants. Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment. It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on age or for filing an age discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under the ADEA.


Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. A person with a disability is one who:

  • has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities;
  • has a record of such an impairment;
  • or is regarded as having such an impairment.

A qualified employee or applicant with a disability is an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job in question. Reasonable accommodation may include, but is not limited to:

  • making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities;
  • job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position;
  • acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting modifying examinations, training materials, or policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters.

An employer is required to accommodate the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business. Undue hardship is defined as an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of factors such as an employer's size, financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation. An employer is not required to lower quality or production standards to make an accommodation, nor is an employer obliged to provide personal use items such as glasses or hearing aids.


Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions. Employers may not reduce wages of either sex to equalize pay between men and women.